Are you eager to taste the delicious cuisine of Kerala? Before that, learning how to order food in Malayalam is necessary. While Kerala’s services are pretty tourist-friendly, with great restaurants with an English menu and English-speaking service providers, learning native words before your journey will only add a cherry on top! Ready to learn more? Let’s go over that and more in today’s post!
First, let me share a story from my last trip to Kerala so you can understand the importance of the topic we are discussing today.
I had heard so much about the delicious food in this region and was eager to try it all. I chose the restaurant that looked the best (generally, for me, is one where more local people are eating or a restaurant that has more people either eating or waiting in line). However, my excitement quickly turned to confusion when I struggled to communicate with the waiter at a local restaurant.
I ordered what I thought was a simple curry (something simple to start my gastronomic experience). Still, to my surprise, I was served what I later discovered was erissery, a pumpkin, and lentil stew. Don’t get me wrong! The stew was absolutely delicious, but it was not what I had in mind. That’s when I realized the importance of knowing a few keywords in the local language when ordering at a restaurant.
So, in today’s post, we will discover facts about South Indian cuisine, the required dining etiquette, and the vocabulary on how to order food in the native language. If you want to learn more, continue reading!
- Cuisine And Dining Etiquette In Kerala
- How To Order Food In Malayalam Restaurants
- Vocabulary On Ordering Food In A Malayalam Restaurant
Cuisine And Dining Etiquette In Kerala
Kerala, a coastal state in southern India, has a rich culinary tradition that draws inspiration from local ingredients, spices, and foreign influences. Its cuisine is characterized by using coconut, rice, and an array of spices like turmeric, cardamom, and cumin, resulting in a distinct flavor profile. The state’s proximity to the Arabian Sea also contributes to its love for seafood, with dishes like fish curry, prawn roast, and crab masala being popular choices.
Want to learn more? Let’s go over the food choices and etiquette in the sections below!
Food In Malayalam Culture
If you have read the previous post on food ingredients and dishes, you already know about the exquisite taste of Kerala. The most popular dishes of Kerala are Idli Sambar and Dosa, which are still known worldwide. The unique thing about Kerala cuisine is its use of lentils, curry leaves, and aromatic spices in most traditional dishes like Idiyappam With Curry, Appam With Ishtu, Idli Sambar, and Dosa.
One of the key ingredients in Kerala cuisine is coconut, which is used in various forms, such as grated, roasted, and ground, to add flavor and texture to the dishes. Spices are also an essential part of Kerala cuisine, with the state’s cuisine featuring an array of spices like cumin, coriander, mustard, and turmeric. These spices are believed to have medicinal properties and are known for their ability to enhance the flavor and aroma of dishes.
Kerala’s cuisine is not only diverse but also nutritious, with many dishes being high in protein and fiber. Some of the nutritious dishes in Kerala’s cuisine include:
- Aviyal: A dish made with mixed vegetables, coconut, and yogurt, aviyal is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Sambar: A lentil-based stew made with vegetables and spices, sambar is high in protein, fiber, and essential nutrients like iron and magnesium.
- Rasam: A tangy soup made with tamarind, tomatoes, and spices, rasam is known for its digestive properties and is a good source of vitamins and minerals.
- Thoran: A stir-fry made with vegetables and coconut, thoran is high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
- Puttu: A steamed rice cake made with coconut, puttu is a nutritious breakfast dish that is high in fiber and essential amino acids.
Dining Etiquette In Kerala
Dining etiquette is an integral part of Kerala’s culture and is deeply rooted in its values of hospitality, respect, and community. Here are some key aspects of dining etiquette in Kerala:
- Eating with the right hand: It is customary to eat with the right hand in Kerala, as the left hand is considered unclean. Guests are encouraged to follow this practice to show respect for the host and their culture.
- Serving guests first: Guests are always served first in Kerala, and the host ensures that they have enough to eat before serving themselves. This practice is a sign of respect for the guest and shows the importance of hospitality in Kerala’s culture.
- Using banana leaves: Kerala’s cuisine is often served on banana leaves, which are eco-friendly and add a unique flavor to the food. Eating off of banana leaves is a traditional practice that has been followed for generations and is considered a sign of respect for the environment.
- Complimenting the host: It is customary to compliment the host on their food and hospitality after the meal. This practice shows gratitude and appreciation for the effort that the host has put into preparing the meal and hosting the guests.
- Washing hands: Guests are expected to wash their hands before and after the meal as a sign of respect for the food and the host. This practice also helps maintain good hygiene and prevents the spread of germs.
How To Order Food In Malayalam Restaurants
Now we will discuss how to order food items with proper native vocabulary. Learning these will not only give you a true dining experience in Kerala but also let you show respect for their culture and engage in conversations with the locals.
Before The Meal
1. Hello! How Are You?
Translation: ഹലോ! എന്തൊക്കെയുണ്ട്?
The first thing you need to learn is how to greet the staff. Greetings are always one of the most common ways of starting a conversation. So, once you enter the restaurant, the first thing you need to do is greet everybody by saying, ഹലോ! എന്തൊക്കെയുണ്ട്?- halēā! enteākkeyuṇṭ? Since the staff members will serve you throughout, there is no harm in being polite and generous towards them.
For more introductory phrases, check out Greetings In Malayalam.
2. Hello, Are You Open?
Translation: ഹലോ, നിങ്ങൾ തുറന്നിട്ടുണ്ടോ?
There’s no point in learning vocabulary to use in the restaurant if you get to the table in it and see the sad signal on the door saying “closed,” so before everything, you should learn how to ask with “halo, ningal thurannittundo?” if a restaurant is open.
3. Do You Have Free Tables?
Translation: നിങ്ങൾക്ക് സൗജന്യ ടേബിളുകൾ ഉണ്ടോ?
Once you are done greeting, the next thing you’ll do is ask നിങ്ങൾക്ക് സൗജന്യ ടേബിളുകൾ ഉണ്ടോ?- niṅṅaḷkk sajan’ya ṭēbiḷukaḷ uṇṭēā? While the staff usually tells you beforehand, it is safe to ask the above question if there is some uncertainty. Another way of asking for free tables is to say എനിക്ക് രണ്ട്/നാല് പേർക്ക് ഒരു ടേബിൾ ലഭിക്കുമോ?– enikk raṇṭ/nāl pērkk oru ṭēbiḷ labhikkumēā? It says, “Can I get a table for two/four?” Doing this will help you find your desired table number depending on how many friends you are with.
If you want to be more specific, you can also say, “Do you have a table for two?” or രണ്ടുപേർക്കുള്ള മേശയുണ്ടോ? (pronounced as randuperkkulla meshayundo?).
4. Can I Have The Menu, Please?
Translation: എനിക്ക് മെനു ലഭിക്കുമോ?
While most restaurants already have their menu placed on the table, they might forget during busy days. In such situations, you can politely ask എനിക്ക് മെനു ലഭിക്കുമോ?- enikk menu labhikkumēā?
Another important thing is most restaurants in Kerala, in order to value their traditions, provide menus in their native language. And although you might understand some items with the help of posts like “Food Ingredients,” for more comfort, you can ask നിങ്ങൾക്ക് ഒരു ഇംഗ്ലീഷ് മെനു ഉണ്ടോ?- niṅṅaḷkk oru iṅglīṣ menu uṇṭēā?, which says, “Do you have an English menu?”
5. Would You Like To Order Now?
Translation: നിങ്ങൾക്ക് ഇപ്പോൾ ഓർഡർ ചെയ്യാൻ താൽപ്പര്യമുണ്ടോ?
The next phrase നിങ്ങൾക്ക് ഇപ്പോൾ ഓർഡർ ചെയ്യാൻ താൽപ്പര്യമുണ്ടോ?- niṅṅaḷkk ippēāḷ ōrḍar ceyyān tālpparyamuṇṭēā? is not something you will use. But, once you are sat with the menu, the staff will come and ask niṅṅaḷkk ippēāḷ ōrḍar ceyyān tālpparyamuṇṭēā? So, it is necessary to know what it sounds like.
6. I Would Like To Order Food Now
Translation: ഇപ്പോൾ ഭക്ഷണം ഓർഡർ ചെയ്യാൻ ഞാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നു
Once you are done browsing the menu, you can say ഇപ്പോൾ ഭക്ഷണം ഓർഡർ ചെയ്യാൻ ഞാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നു- ippēāḷ bhakṣaṇaṁ ōrḍar ceyyān ñān āgrahikkunnu, which will allow the staff to take notes on your order and provide you with the desired waiting time.
7. Can I Have…, Please?
Translation: എനിക്ക് കഴിയുമോ…, ദയവായി?
On mentioning what food items you would like to have, you can use the phrase എനിക്ക് കഴിയുമോ…, ദയവായി?- enikk kaḻiyumēā…, dayavāyi? If the item is unavailable, the staff will let you know. In case you want something additional such as tissues, water bottles, or extra plates, you can use the exact phrase. Another similar phrase conveying the same message is pronounced as എനിക്ക് ഓർഡർ ചെയ്യണം…- enikk ōrḍar ceyyaṇaṁ…, which says, “I’d like to order…”
8. Yes, That Is all!
Translation: അതെ, അത്രമാത്രം
Once the staff or the waiter is done taking your order, they will repeat your order to confirm it. If the items are correct, you can confirm it by saying അതെ, അത്രമാത്രം- ate, atramātraṁ. In case there is something missing or you want the waiter to suggest more items, you ask നിങ്ങൾ എന്താണ് ശുപാർശ ചെയ്യുന്നത്?- niṅṅaḷ entāṇ śupārśa ceyyunnat? In English, it says, “What do you recommend?”
During The Meal
1. This Is Not What I Ordered
Translation: ഇത് ഞാൻ ഓർഡർ ചെയ്തതല്ല
Remember, you’re still learning how to master this difficult language, so even if you’re saying the right words, you still can be misinterpreted. Getting the wrong rice dish is still a possibility, and you have two options: either you embrace the change and try the dish you get, or you use the expression ഇത് ഞാൻ ഓർഡർ ചെയ്തതല്ല (ithu njaan order cheythathalla) to tell the waiter you wanted something else.
2. Enjoy Your Meal!
Translation: ഭക്ഷണം ആസ്വദിക്കുക
The phrase ഭക്ഷണം ആസ്വദിക്കുക- bhakṣaṇaṁ āsvadikkuka is often used by the staff after they serve your food. It is a kind gesture from their side, similar to “Cheers” when you drink with your friends. However, you can also learn and use this phrase if you visit a restaurant with local Malayali friends. Especially when you are with adult members, using such phrases can make you stand out as a foreigner and help you receive appreciation for your efforts.
3. Thank You, I Will Eat Well!
Translation: നന്ദി, ഞാൻ നന്നായി കഴിക്കും!
To respond to the staff’s good wishes, you can politely reply with a smile by using the phrase നന്ദി, ഞാൻ നന്നായി കഴിക്കും!- nandi, ñān nannāyi kaḻikkuṁ! It is a ubiquitous phrase used during meals by the locals, and you can use it on any occasion or in any setting while enjoying your meal.
4. Everything Is Delicious!
Translation: എല്ലാം രുചികരമാണ്
There is always time to say that your meal was great if you liked it. Use the expression എല്ലാം രുചികരമാണ് (allam ruchikaramaanu) to tell the chef that you loved their side dish or food!
After The Meal
1. Can I Have The Bill, Please?
Translation: ബില്ല് തരുമോ?
While some places tend to provide the bill right after you are served or immediately after the staff notices you with a finished table, in most cases, you will have to raise your hand, find a waitperson, and say ബില്ല് തരുമോ?- bill tarumēā? It will allow the staff to understand that you are done with your meals and would like to pay now. Only then will they proceed with the billing process. As mentioned earlier, in Kerala, disturbance in the middle of the meal is not accepted. So, the staff waits for your signal and only then brings you the money receipt for the payment.
2. The Food Was Delicious!
Translation: ഭക്ഷണം രുചികരമായിരുന്നു!
It is nice to say a few words about the food and appreciate the restaurant’s efforts. So, to bring a smile to the staff’s face, you can give feedback on the food item by saying ഭക്ഷണം രുചികരമായിരുന്നു!- bhakṣaṇaṁ rucikaramāyirunnu!
3. Thank You For Your Service
Translation: നിങ്ങളുടെ സേവനത്തിന് നന്ദി
Once you are done with the payment, it is kind to thank the staff members for their service. While you can tip them if you want, it is rare in India. Nevertheless, you can always say നിങ്ങളുടെ സേവനത്തിന് നന്ദി- niṅṅaḷuṭe sēvanattin nandi before you leave and show a slight appreciation of their work!
Other Useful Malayalam Words
Let’s now have a look at some vocabulary you may want to know to help you get the message through during your next order at a restaurant in Kerala.
|Order||ഓർഡർ ചെയ്യുക||order cheyyuka|
|Non-vegetarian||നോൺ വെജിറ്റേറിയൻ||non vegiteriyan|
Other Phrases In Malayalam
Here is a list of more phrases related to ordering food and restaurant needs. You can go through them and memorize them as they are easy and also very helpful. With these, you will engage more with the locals!
|Excuse me||എക്സ്ക്യൂസ് മീ||ekskyūs mī|
|I need some water||എനിക്ക് കുറച്ച് വെള്ളം വേണം||enikk kuṟacc veḷḷaṁ vēṇaṁ|
|What’s there for starters?||തുടക്കക്കാർക്കായി എന്താണുള്ളത്?||tuṭakkakkārkkāyi entāṇuḷḷat?|
|Please bring a bottle of water||ദയവായി ഒരു കുപ്പി വെള്ളം കൊണ്ടുവരിക||dayavāyi oru kuppi veḷḷaṁ keāṇṭuvarika|
|I don’t want spicy||എനിക്ക് എരിവ് വേണ്ട||enikk eriv vēṇṭa|
|No meat, please||മാംസം വേണ്ട||mānsaṁ vēṇṭa|
|Can you make it less spicy?||എരിവ് കുറച്ച് ഉണ്ടാക്കാമോ?||eriv kuṟacc uṇṭākkāmēā?|
|Do you serve beef items?||നിങ്ങൾ ബീഫ് ഇനങ്ങൾ വിളമ്പാറുണ്ടോ?||niṅṅaḷ bīph inaṅṅaḷ viḷampāṟuṇṭēā?|
|Can I get a second serving, please?||എനിക്ക് രണ്ടാമത്തെ സെർവിംഗ് ലഭിക്കുമോ?||enikk raṇṭāmatte serviṅg labhikkumēā?|
|The food is amazing||ഭക്ഷണം അതിശയകരമാണ്||bhakṣaṇaṁ atiśayakaramāṇ|
|Please don’t add…||ദയവായി ചേർക്കരുത്…||dayavāyi cērkkarut…|
|Does this have nuts?||ഇതിന് പരിപ്പ് ഉണ്ടോ?||itin paripp uṇṭēā?|
|How much is this?||ഇത് എത്രമാത്രമാണ്?||it etramātramāṇ?|
|Is there any special offer?||എന്തെങ്കിലും പ്രത്യേക ഓഫർ ഉണ്ടോ?||enteṅkiluṁ pratyēka ōphar uṇṭēā?|
|What is special in today’s menu?||ഇന്നത്തെ മെനുവിൽ എന്താണ് പ്രത്യേകത?||innatte menuvil entāṇ pratyēkata?|
|Do you have vegan items?||നിങ്ങളുടെ പക്കൽ വെഗൻ ഇനങ്ങൾ ഉണ്ടോ?||niṅṅaḷuṭe pakkal vegan inaṅṅaḷ uṇṭēā?|
|Can I get an extra plate?||എനിക്ക് ഒരു അധിക പ്ലേറ്റ് ലഭിക്കുമോ?||enikk oru adhika plēṟṟ labhikkumēā?|
|Do you accept online payment?||നിങ്ങൾ ഓൺലൈൻ പേയ്മെന്റ് സ്വീകരിക്കുമോ?||niṅṅaḷ ōṇlain pēymenṟ svīkarikkumēā?|
|I love the place!||ഞാൻ സ്ഥലം ഇഷ്ടപ്പെടുന്നു!||ñān sthalaṁ iṣṭappeṭunnu!|
Enjoy Your Meal!
Now that you know how to order food and communicate in the native language, nothing can stop you from devouring the delicious South Indian dishes with an authentic dining experience! Isn’t it amazing to speak Malayalam like a native speaker and communicate easily without any language barriers? Learning languages simultaneously develops your skills and personality, which unlocks the ability to handle situations and adapt to different cultures.
However, for fluent delivery of speeches, there is much more to learn. Fluency will be achieved only through good practice, which Ling is ready to provide. So, download Ling from Appstore or Playstore to get the best resources.
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